When I was given the review of Laughing Jackal’s PSN exclusive mini Fighting Fantasy I was aware of the history of the franchise (I have read other game books), however, it wasn’t something I was overly familiar with so what I was interested in was how Laughing Jackal would cater for newcomers to the franchise, would the game be accessible and user friendly beyond its fans? This is the way I approached the game and is also the view adopted for the review.
First off a brief history lesson, Fighting Fantasy is a series of single player fantasy roleplay gamebooks that were published way back in 1982 and were created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (the co-founders of Games Workshop). The books were hugely successful and were unique in that the reader (or player) could guide the outcome of the story and decide the actions of the protagonist. All in all there are over 52 books in the Fighting Fantasy series and the FF: Talisman of Death is based on the book of the same name where you have to save the once peaceful world of Orb. Your mission is to destroy the Talisman of Death before the dark lord’s minions reach you. The story is set, all we have to do now is to play the game.
The game contains an extensive tutorial, the problem is, however, that the tutorial is simply bulk text, it is well explained but it is a tedious read. It’s largely not necessarily as the game itself is fairly straight forward and plays just like the game books. The game begins with the same opening pages each time, you’re brought from Earth to get the Death talisman which you must bring back to Earth to stop it being used for evil. The game screen consists of your stats, inventory and the page you are currently reading. The stats break down into three traits; skill, stamina and luck. Skill determines your strength in attack, Stamina determines your resistance to attack whilst luck allows you a chance at inflicting further damage on foes or by receiving less damage yourself. Luck becomes useful when facing powerful foes. When you first start the game your base stats are determined at random by three tarot cards, whilst your stats can not strictly increase they can be modified by objects and certain actions you take.
Fighting Fantasy relies heavily on text there is very little and virtually no graphical presentation, it’s a shame that there is a lack of illustrations bringing the world and monsters to life or even animated battles but then this is beside the point, Laughing Jackal are aiming for an interactive gamebook and not an RPG. That said if you are willing to take the time to read all the text and give the game a chance you will find yourself loosing hours in the world of Orb through the fascinating story and the ability to make your own choices and decisions. You can view some drawings of the characters by visiting the log book, however, many of the illustrations are repeated across different characters, you get the feeling Laughing Jackal could have added more, if nothing else just to make the graphical presentation of the main game a little less bland. It would be nice, for example, for the image of what you are fighting to appear on the combat screen but this is usually not the case.
Throughout the game you meet different characters and different scenarios, some characters are evil whilst others are good and it is up to the individual to decide. If you die at any time in the game then like the game books you must go back to the beginning. Each encounter can have different outcomes. For example if you tell the truth you may gain a luck stat for your honesty. There is lots to do in the game and you don’t always have to immediately follow the main story arch and by going off to side events you can unlock bonus items and extra stats that will come in handy later in the game.
One of the big things in the game is the combat system that can work in two ways. The default and first way is the tile system, depending on how strong your enemy is depends on how many tiles you yourself have on the board. The tiles are shuffled and you must pick one of your own tiles to make a successful hit, if you select one of your enemies then you yourself take damage. On the board is also a tile which is two swords, if you select this then both players miss each other. It’s a simple combat system and it is the one I prefer as it is more interactive than the dice system. With the dice system, (it’s all automated you don’t get to roll the dice yourself), both players roll two dice, the sum of the two dice is added to your skill score and the player with the highest number gets to attack. On both modes if you hit or get hit you can use one of your luck points, if selected a bar appears that contains a green and red section, you must stop the bar in the green section to be successful. If successful you can limit your foes attack or cause more damage yourself. Depending on how many luck points you have and the strength of your foe determines how big the green and red sections of the bar are, the smaller the green section the harder it is to have luck on your side. The problem with the combat system is that it doesn’t feel like there is much skill needed, it feels like it merely based on luck, if the dice or tiles are on your side you win, if not you fail. The way the combat system is designed makes it feel limited but on the other hand the simplicity does make it accessible for all players. The depth of the combat system comes from the items you collect and use and not from the system itself.
Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death, is a fun game and the mini format means it is playable on your PSP too which is perhaps, where the game is more suited. It is certainly a niche game and requires lots of concentration, if you are willing to let yourself fall into the world and read through the density of the text then you’ll find a game that is true to it’s gamebook origins and one that is engrossing and rewarding. Fighting Fantasy is well worth a look and one that fans of the series will love, it does require effort from outside players but it is worth it and it certainly deserves a look and a ‘fighting’ chance!
|Engaging gameplay in a title that is true to its origins, The ability to create your own story through your own decisions||The amount of dense text may put some players off, Lack of artwork/animation, Limited combat system|